I Am Not the Christ: Reflections On Life in Ministry
“Peter, Andrew, James and John looked up at this man on the shore. And they couldn’t explain it: their boats needed mending, fish were still wriggling on the shore, But something about this Stranger made them just drop their nets and their fish, leave their boats—and everything—and follow him.”—The Jesus Storybook Bible
In Seminary, in many classes, professors had us stand up and say, “I am not the Christ.” Though I felt silly doing this exercise, I still experienced the magnitude of admitting out loud that I am not God.
Years later, I’ve been compelled to self-engage with this exercise. I find myself muttering it under my breath often. I am not the Christ. I want to say it out loud to people, too. I want to cry, “I am not Jesus!”
But then the work surrounds me. It closes in like Tsunami waves. The belief that if I don’t do it, no one else will threatens to wash me away.
I do rest sometimes. I do take breaks and turn off my phone and hide me email app away from easy access.
And I have come to notice, in these moments, the pressure is worse. The narrative that people are judging me for not being available 24-7 begins on repeat in my brain. The pull to be in two places at once--and both of those places are important and should be priority—pulls against a question: should ministry be prioritized by hierarchy in the first place?
All of this butts against the irony that I want to work. I want to care for people well. I want to do life with the flock God has called me to shepherd.
But on the day following a day full of tears, I can barely get out of bed. My body reminds me that emotional and spiritual engagement with others takes a toll not just on the heart and mind, but on my physical being.
I look at the life of Christ, the One I am following. I see him sneaking away to rest, but the people find him anyway. Instead of closing his door and turning them away, he welcomes them with open arms.
Then there are other times when people arrive and claim to be first priority in his life. He rejects them for others.
I am not the Christ.
I do not have Christ’s wisdom to always know the right thing to do at any moment. I am not adequate in myself to discern who has a higher claim or when the door should be closed or open.
But I know the Christ. He is my friend. I am not the Christ means he is the Christ. I may not know when I should say yes and when I should say no. But I work for a Christ who cares far more about those under my care than I do. And he called me to a work, knowing my limitations fully. He brought me here with all my limitations already in place. He says, “Where you are weak, there I am strong.”
Maybe the times my phone is off and a need arises, Christ will fill that need in another way. Maybe he will fill that need with himself and not with me.
Maybe that is better, anyway.
I am not the Christ means his is the Christ. He is the Christ to me. Follow me, he says, and it’s a peaceful whisper to my soul. It’s a whisper that holds laughter and rest and a promise of faithfulness even when I am faithless.